Why Mention the "Suicide" in Suicide Bomber At All,

some readers ask? Because it's very relevant to how we can fight this sort of killing.

It's much harder to deter suicide bombers than nonsuicide bombers. It's harder to watch for suspicious objects (it's one thing to watch for abandoned backpacks, another to watch for backpacks on people's backs). Techniques used for blocking nonsuicide bombers (for instance, preventing nonpassengers from getting bombs on the plane) won't work as well for suicide bombers.

More broadly, knowing that your enemy is willing to blow themselves up in order to kill you is also surely relevant for understanding the enemy -- not as a means of forgiving them, but as a means of better fighting them. That so many Islamist terrorists are willing to face not just the risk of death but the certainty of death tells us something about the nature of Islamist terrorism (though doubtless different people have different views about what exactly it tells us). That Islamist terrorism seems to be the one form of terrorism -- at least of the forms seen recently in the West -- that employs suicide bombing may itself be an important datum.

So the "suicide" in "suicide bomber" is actually important information. Omitting it strips away important information, and adding "homicide" adds very little: While bombings aimed only at destroying property are possible, I suspect few people think of them these days when they hear "bomber" on the news. And since it seems quite unlikely that someone would deliberately kill himself just to bomb property, I'm pretty sure that when people hear "suicide bomber," they almost always assume that he was trying to kill others.